Gov. Sam Brownback is cutting most state agencies 4 percent to balance the Kansas budget for next year.
Lawmakers approved an unbalanced budget that required the governor to make almost $100 million in spending reductions to comply with the state Constitution. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the governor exempted some agencies and K-12 schools.
“When we were considering what reductions to make, he worked to exempt things like public safety agencies, critical access hospitals, home and community based service providers to providers in order to protect those that are most vulnerable,” Sullivan says.
Sullivan says they don’t expect the budget cuts to cause any layoffs, but how to absorb the reductions will be left to state agency heads.
Higher education will take $30 million in cuts, which are not evenly distributed. The largest schools, KU and K-State, will take the largest percentage cuts. KU and KU Med will lose nearly $11 million total; K-State will lose $7 million overall. Sullivan points out that they found ways to manage costs and avoid tax increases.
Officials at KU and K-State wanted Brownback to veto that requirement, saying it punishes the Kansas schools that attract research funding that grows their budgets. Sullivan says the governor ultimately decided to let that provision stand.
“Based on what was in the legislative budget and the difficulty in getting budgets passed and the belief that if that proviso would not have been in then the budget would not have passed,” Sullivan says.
Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly says university cuts will mean bigger tuition increases and cuts to Medicaid may reduce services. Kelly says that’s the result of not amending tax cuts passed in recent years.
“We needed to deal with that, we needed to increase our revenue sources so that these kinds of cuts wouldn’t need to be made. It’s just piling damage onto damage,” Kelly says.
She says the governor talks a lot about job creation, but she says selling the Kansas Bioscience Authority and cutting universities doesn’t help.
“When you look at what he’s actually doing, he’s cutting, and in some ways destroying, the biggest economic engines that we have,” Kelly says.
KU spokesman Tim Caboni says it will take time to determine the impact of the cuts, but he says the effects “will be significant.”
The governor’s office also warns that a lawsuit over education funding could result in more budget cuts. That’s because state Supreme Court justices could order more spending on Kansas schools.